Why I Love Western Culture.

My best friend from college was brought up to believe that her destiny in her very traditional family, lay in marrying a man chosen by her parents and then finding happiness in serving him and his family. Her brother played cricket, but she must learn to cook for this bright future.
Then she got a scholarship to go and study in the USA. Her Mom got me to take her photographs (in a sari) to arrange a marriage for her while she was abroad.

She was the most traditional amongst us and grew up with oppressive restrictions. But in America one of the first things she noticed was how it was possible to wear whatever she liked without being stared at (etc.). She sent me photographs she would never have dared to send to her parents. The mandatory black bindi was peeled off her forehead, hair left loose, she wore clothes that made her look gorgeous.

Something as simple and as personal as being able to wear what she liked was an undreamt of luxury in India. We don’t even think about it. Men wear western clothes and it is not even noticed, but let a girl wear what she likes and suddenly there is a sena being excused for molesting her!

Do we really believe that women are attacked for the way they dress? I think we do. The truth is crimes against women only happen when the criminal knows he will be excused or the girl will be condemned for even complaining against him. And how we love to do that. But not America.

Later she wrote to forbid me from ever sending those sari pictures to her parents. And then she started living with an American she had no hope of being allowed to marry. Shocking? Scandalous? She didn’t have to care. Then she married him and today they have three teenage kids, two dogs and one pet gerbil.

She is an Asian Hindu, he is white and Christian. Neither is afraid of being lynched for their faith.
She has no in-law demands. No dowry. Her mother in law has never attempted to demand that she has children of a certain gender.
She has no fear of her daughter being beaten for going to the pub or for drinking or wearing skimpy clothing. If (god forbid) if such a thing ever happens to any American girl, they will not be blamed for being in the wrong clothes at the wrong time, in the wrong place.
The victim will be provided emotional and legal support. The way any victim should be.

Now she joins my sister in demanding I send my daughter to study there. And for the first time, I am seriously thinking about it.

Somebody tell me how and when has Indian culture been respectful to women and their rights?
And since it hasn’t why am I so shocked that they beat those girls in Mangalore with this culture as an excuse? (For political gains by our criminals in politics).

And here are some points in response to a deleted comment (To the last post.)

1. Women are equal citizens, whether you like it or you don’t.

2. You do not have the authority to make rules for other equal citizens.

3.You may not like the influence of American/Western Culture on Indian women but they are very much within their rights to adopt any culture they like. Read about why @lankrita, here and Tearsndreams, here prefer these Western values.
They live there, they should know. MAYBE IT WILL BE A SHOCKING EYE OPENER FOR YOU.

4. Whether women do drugs or get drunk and dance in skimpy clothes, it does not become right for other citizens to beat them or molest them. YES I REPEAT, unbelievable as it sounds to you, MOLESTATION DOES NOT EVER BECOME RIGHT. It is always wrong.

5. Do you know the meaning of KOOP MANDUK?

6. Did you have Civics as a subject in school?
Have you read the Preamble?
Ever heard of Fundamental Rights?
We do not have any Legal or Moral Right to tell other citizens how they should live their lives.

7. Do you really care to know what moral policing and Talibanisation can do?
Have you read A Thousand Splendid Sons and The Kite Runner?
And if you think you are safe because such crimes only teach lessons to women maybe these books will make you see how injustice to any one of us affects all of us.
You may not like it but we are all connected.

It is not courageous to sit and watch injustice, silently thanking our stars that we are not the victims. But much worse is excusing the injustice.

Edited to add: Please read Roop’s brilliant response to this post, ending with … ‘When my freedoms are taken away from me and my personality is altered, it would no longer be me! It would only be my body walking without β€˜me as I was born’!! as many do in India.

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70 thoughts on “Why I Love Western Culture.

  1. India is a pseudo-secularist state.
    Ideally, government should have no interference in any sort of religious, economical and scientific/technological sector. The role of government is to provide protection for the individual right to freedom of religion culture and property.

    The pubs are the private property of pub owners, and if government disallows pubs and dance bars on the name of Indian culture than it is shameful.

    These politicians must look in history back.

    Dance bars, Pubs, and Prostitution houses were pretty common and cultural in India in the times of Nand dynasty, mauryan dynasty, Chola, chalukya dynasty and Moughal dynasty.
    Gay/lesbian rights were common and reognizable during vedic period and during mauryan dynasty rules too. Khajuraho temples are a mere evidence.

    There is nothing new, nothing foreign in Pub culture, dance bar culture. it is our own Indian culture.
    yet it is not matter of culture.

    Cultural changes are pretty normal thing in human society, noone uses dhoti kurta now.

    Ohh by the way, i added a part in your group blog activism of
    Say No to Criminals

    Plz have a look.

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  2. “If (god forbid) if such a thing ever happens to any American girl, they will not be blamed for being in the wrong clothes at the wrong time, in the wrong place.” I do not entirely agree with this comment because even in the US, men who rape and molest women justify their acts by saying things like “she was asking for it” or “we all know when a woman says ‘no’, she actually means ‘yes’.”
    Having said that, to me the US is the best place to live in (I’ve lived there for a few years) because they have strict laws in place…No other country has so many laws protecting individuals and their rights…

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  3. well IHM, the freedom women are given is about the only thing i would take from western culture. i prefer the way we do things in normal educated families out here better.

    i would hate to “fix” playdates for my kids or think that malls is the only form of entertainment or junk food is the way to go or that its ok to get pregnant at 13! so culture is a very broad word that you have used.

    but that said, an individuals right to live the way they want to is something that HAS to be ensured! to treat women like this under the guise on indian “culture” is nothing but crap. its men who would who cannot believe women are indeed equals and deserve to be treated so.

    its mandatory that a woman feels safe wherever she goes wearing whatever she wants and the words “she asked for it” have to be banned! no one “asks” to be raped! if she wants to get to sex she will get it her way, not be forced upon!

    i seriously hope that such inciedents are never repeated and that the people resposible are given a punishment they remember.

    cheers!

    abha

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  4. @Gargi I agree and I doubt all these upholders of values have any ideas what they are talking about.

    @Bones A rapist will defend himself, but at least the legal system and also the society will not blame her.

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  5. u are so right and yet I cant dream of running away or sending my daughter away inorder to feel protected. I intend to stay right here and fight these mentalities and mental patients.

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  6. “Now she joins my sister in demanding I send my daughter to study there. And for the first time, I am seriously thinking about it”

    You should send her.

    Quirky Indian

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  7. Yes,IHM I agrre with a lot that you say…the freedom to dress the way we want,marry whom we want,a lot of freedom that is….But in the end IHM ,India has more pros than cons ,even if at this moment it seems otherwise and totally hopeless…look at where we have come from where we were…and we still have miles to go…and we’ll stay right here and fight back and reclaim whats ours!so that our grandaughters too are not sent abroad because they feel vulnerable…..
    I might be saying this because I dont have a daughter of my own as yet…but I really believe that even if I did I would stay the same….:)….

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  8. If there is one thing I love the most about the western culture its the freedom… freedom to do what one wants without having to question thousand people… and it holds good for both men and women…

    and all this what has happened and all the similar incidents they are like big big black spot on India… but still I would not say that I hate indian culture and want to move out of here….

    IHM, indian culture is much more than these goons and if there is anything wrong together we can make it right….

    What say IHM?

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  9. @Abha Our cosmopolitan culture is maligned as highly Westernised.

    Abha Western values do not want girls to get pregnant at thirteen but if they do,
    1.They don’t disown or kill them to save family honor.
    2. If a baby is born they don’t need to abandon it in garbage dumps.

    In India it is not unheard of to see girls being married very young and pregnant and working. My one maid was married to a 24 year old man at he age of twelve. I have never head her speak well of him. She is in her early twenties and has three kids.

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  10. Whew. There seems to be an entire other country of people out there who have been brainwashed so severely that they are happy to have an outlet for their atavistic urges- doesn’t the pulling womens’ hair reek of cave man ‘culture’?

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  11. It is not “ok” to get pregnant at 13 anywhere- in the West they don’t engage in slut-shaming about it- that is all. And junk food, malls and even the “hook up culture” is looked down upon, in the west- just to clarify. I am not too surprised at this stereotype of the west (along with all westerners are always having sex) being perpetuated. Stereotypes are wonderful generalizations in dealing with anyone- the problem is they are too often wrong and lead to further discrimination(think of the gems, all women need to be controlled, or all women are weak, or all women need to be protected).
    Women the world over are blamed for attacks on them , for rape and molestation- in the West it is less rampant and owing to the strong freedom of speech clauses Women’s rights group manage to make more headway. So , yes, women are freer in the west. It also makes the men freer. Not perfectly so- but more than anywhere else. Also there is less interference in personal choices and personal lifestyles- by everyone else. That unfortunately is lacking in our society. Of course there are exceptions, but that is what they are- exceptions. Our families- at least our immediate families are not like that- but in the vast majority of busybodies, who also use age-old stereotypes to deal with women, and change, that is but a drop. And with our impotent systems- police and law enforcers, it needs to be each one for themselves. That is the helplessness created, in India.

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  12. I love the way common Americans respect individuality (though their politicians/establishment, as a superpower, tend to make their own rules when need arises – eg IRAQ, Laden, Middle-East….).

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  13. IHM, I get the feeling that these politicians and goons are using this as an excuse to get us away from the real issues of governance plaguing the country. You know law and order, drinking water, poverty everything else- culture is a smoke screen. I bet they themselves do not believe a word of this crap.

    Quite frankly every government makes a lot of money off the tax on alcohol. And pubs, restaurants, places of entertainment all generate revenue and JOBS. Why is the government against that?

    As for “culture”, it is supposed to change- no culture grows by force- language evolves, customs change and the less accepted ones die out. That is how any culture has progressed.

    On Gehlot’s statement about the culture of Rajasthan, I wonder what it is- the one where underage girls are married off to old men- and when widowed packed off to Varanasi? Or the one where an 18 year old widow is forced to commit “sati” and worshipped for that? or where baby girls are killed after they are born? Give me the alcohol and free sex anytime.

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  14. Yes, I agree with the way you are thinking…
    I am glad that my sister is going too… where she will have the freedom to study and wear(!) what she wants and how she wants among many other things…
    And when I see that halter neck top which I like very much – I remind myself to go back to that shop to buy it when I get a chance to travel “onsite” for work!!!

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  15. @Pinku Not sure what we’ll do … I would prefer to fight and not feel so hopeless …
    I guess we can.

    @Quirky Indian I don’t really want to 😦
    … maybe three years later, not now. But if this situation continues then definitely.

    @Indyeah I am all for staying and fighting, it’s our country too.

    @Monika Yes, I agree. But these guys are hijacking everything! Even our freedom! (But then girls in India are not supposed to have any freedom…) Even if the kids go, I intend to fight anyway.

    @Dipali That’s exactly what I felt!!It is as if there are so many Indias… we live in a world so different from where such goons emerged, and their cheek, the sheer audacity of doing something like this and so openly, so shamelessly and then trying to justify it. I can’t get over it.
    And still not punished.

    @Alankrita I agree. I hope we see India also emerging as a real democracy.

    @Z@ki-R True!! Common citizens everywhere want the same things … India, Pakistan, America or Japan. I heard Obama say the same thing on the TV and realised why the common man likes him so much.
    It’s these fundamentalists, criminals and greedy politicians who don’t … no?

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  16. IHM, Very rightly pointed out. I used to think that the Indian values we have is alien to American culture but there is a whole lot different America people don’t know and still blame.

    I live in a small town of US with 100% conservative Whites ( with a very small population of Indian Doctors and Engineers). You would think this must be hard but this is the best place ever in my US life.

    I have my neighbors knocking at my doors when I am home for a cup of Coffee or inviting me to join them.

    When I moved here I had most of my neighbors coming with housewarming gifts and they introduced themselves.

    I have neighbors kids knocking on my doors asking if I would send Peanut out to play. (Not always)

    We celebrate 4th of July together and that is a must here.

    When we played Holi once, our neighbors wanted to know more about it and joined us.

    I see married children of some of my neighbors visiting them every Saturday and having dinner together along with grand children.

    I have seen one parent even staying at home for the sake of children’ education.

    I don’t know how different it would have been in India. All these Indian values we talk about is what I see here.

    On top of that I can wear whatever suits me or I like and still won’t have people staring at me or moral policing me.

    Fanatics in any country pull whole nation down. That’s been happening to many Islamic countries and India is no different. A place where women are not respected or considered equal can never prosper.

    In this Ram Sena circus one thing we shouldn’t forget is, this is election time, they wanted their 2 mins fame to prove to their parent parties. That’s why so much media coverage. Any publicity makes news these days and they have gotten enough.

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  17. I agree with Alankrita. Getting pregnant at 13, Junk food culture etc. are the western stereotypes. Not everyone does that.

    Good families still prefer hot meals. Many don’t even buy regular sodas at home.

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  18. I am really glad that you are coming up with such posts.. Only if we raise our voices we will make india a better place to live in.. And i swear in india everything is judged by the clothes a girl wears..even her character is judged by her clothes.. Today terrorism and other such issues are not important but what a girl wears.. If she goes to pub or not.. If she talks to guys or not.. This is really pathetic.. But its sadly true..i think we must blog about this again and again to make our voices heard.. And i am really happy that you are coming up with this consistently..

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  19. I would whole heartedly encourage your daughter to come here. it will her a chance to grow as a person, know herself and know what she really wants with life. The justification however is a little erroneous. You have written about what is usually the common perception of the west, but as someone who has been for for a while, studied, worked and moved in very different circles, I can tell you not everything you hear is true. Women are routinely raped here too and the usual reason is she was in the wrong place at the wrong time. My very American friend who worked in Manhattan has given me tales of being molested in pubs. White Americans are routinely warned to stay away from certain areas even in broad daylight. Everyday someone gets shot in Brooklyn and Harlem. The KKK which is a pro-white extreme right group is still active and still causes problems in the south. The dotbusters http://www.pluralism.org/ocg/CDROM_files/hinduism/dot_busters.php are and were a group against Indians and Asians. The minorities are still excluded and treated with a certain degree of bias in society. As an Indian I can say that there have been times when I have felt more unwelcome in certain places that ever, I have been seen as trying too hard to fit, too foreign to fit or too strange to be an American. Yes, I wear different dresses, be more free but all that does come at a price here too. Women to a large degree are living double lives here too. Maternity leave is a pitiable 6 weeks and women are strongly discouraged from rising up the ladder if they have kids, I should know. I know colleagues – white and colored who have been refused tenure, have to put up with sexist remarks and sexism in the workplace and even in college. Yes, There are radical elements in 60 year old India, but they are there in 400 year old America too. My nine yard wearing grandmother forced to get professional degrees and has seen two of her granddaughters go out and one work the late night shift in Delhi for a newsmedia…there are people who change with the times and who realize the place of women is not always at home. So send your daughter to the US. Not because it is free here, but because she will be given a chance to grow and learn something new.

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  20. I think we are dragging culture unnecessarily into the Mangalore attacks. Interpreting that to be Indian culture is like interpreting the Sub-prime crisis and bailout as US culture!

    Destination Infinity

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  21. I also agree with Solilo and Alankrita.

    I must say that I was prejudiced too until I came here. And the world I saw here was totally different from what I was told and what I’d heard until then. And I’m glad I had this experience. Otherwise I’d have never been able to open my eyes to reality and appreciate cultures.

    My uncle and his family have settled here for the exact same reason. He did not want his kids to be in a place where he grew up with difficulties and with no opportunities and no safety. He chose to settle in the US so his children could get all the opportunities and independence to do what they were interested in and I think his decision has proven right after all. Just yesterday, when I was talking to him, he said that he has NO regrets whatsoever for having chosen to move the US permanently. And why not? And I wonder how many of us are so sure of our decisions and dont regret them in our lifetime.
    (I might add that the uncle’s daughter was chosen by the Mayor for a Community Service Award for 3 continuous years and the son is now on his way to the same! And they are not the typical Western kids, if I may say so)

    I wont say that things mentioned above in some comments do not happen here. They do. But they are dealt with severely too. Why arent we learning such things from the West then??

    I think its high time we started learning things from the West that we ought to learn. Like freedom of speech, law and order, independence, support, action, compassion, gratitude, courtesy, discipline and tolerance instead of blaming them for introducing the pub-and-mall culture to India. There is more to the West than meets the eye.

    No offence meant to anyone but just wanted to write some of my honest thoughts on this East-West culture preferences.

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  22. the mangalore case was a really scary one…we are all taking about it ..i have read posts on it on so many blogs….but unfortunately the incident will fade from public memory… and then a few months later another such case will occur..n we will re-discuss this.. wat we need is real answers, long term solutions to such hooliganism, a judiciary that works..its all a distant dream, if u ask me..
    mandira

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  23. IHM, Send you daughter to the US because she has better educational opportunities here, not because she will have the freedom to wear what she wants. The moral police exists here, girls are molested at high school parties, in certain Univ. campuses students need to be escorted back the security if you work till late. Yes, it all exists here – the difference is that people don’t usually resort to mob violence to make a point.

    Vinita

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  24. Well, While I do not agree completely with the potrayed things…I do agree, women or infact anyone should be given the freedom of choice of all things concerning themselves!!!
    What Shiv Sena or whatever organisation has done is 100% WRONG and can something that should not be taken lite!!! Koopa Mandooks…Ya…def…I am bound to say…exceptions do agree but we can analyse with majority!

    When I say, I do not agree, I mean….I am from a traditional family…..I dont drink, I dont show my arms…i dont have boy friends….But I am def not a Koopa Mandook!!!
    I experiment with things also…but at my will, where I am interested….if a friend of mine wants to go a pub, i wont look down upon him/her! but def…if she/he tries to drag me in saying I am being a blah blah….I am sure, I can resist and answer back…I wont give in and am firm in my beliefs atleast on this!
    But I wont feel bad/think i am not trendy and stuff like that!

    My mom left us for our decisions form may b 3rd class….by saying this she didnt leave us to fate…she guided us…advised us…but never was ordering!
    The best thing I learnt from her is….the best discipline takes its birth from freedom!!
    U cant use freedom as an excuse when u misuse it! or do not fully understand or in position of having the capability to use it!
    Which is what I believe is making these idiots get whatever support they are getting from!!

    Also, as I commented in Hip Hop Grandmom’s post….whether its OBAMA or OSAMA, nurturing takes a major role….
    Just like Kasab feels what he did was right and in the name of God, these shiv sena people might also think the same coz thats what they were told since they were child!!

    But ya as you said…Nothing can serve as an excuse! Its a done sin and have to be addressed!

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  25. I wrote a very looong comment before…dont knw if it reached u! anyways…contd!

    And ya…as a just passed graduate my advise would be…send her to US if she wants real experience on survival while studying! She would learn to stand her own legs and learn how to manage! In our society , i should admit, unless u r proactive, u can learn nothing! and even then , most things are spoon fed! but send her for masters rather than bachelors coz, she would know good or bad by the time she finishes her bachelors and can very well look after herself!
    She would have known that she needs to stand being herself even in a crowd!!

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  26. 1)Sending your daughter to US is a fab idea. But I personally feel your excuse/reason to send her will be wrong. Lets not be escapists. I will rather want you to send your daughter there because of the opportunities and exposure that country has to offer.

    2)lets get some perspective, it is not our culture which is faulty.These goons just want to exploit it.Its exactly what taliban is making out of ISLAM.

    3)About your friend enjoying less freedom in India, from what i read, i think it was more becuase of the pressure from her parents.isnt it?And i am sure, you are not gonna exert any such UNWANTED pressure on your daughter, so your daughter is definately going to enjoy a lot more freedom anyway.

    4)Allthough I am not comparing with US,I have stayed in Bangalore/Pune, gals do enjoy lot more freedom out there. I guess same can be said for many other cities of India.So, dont give up on India yet.

    PERSISTENCE IHM..PERSISTENCE..!!!Lets make India a better place, TOGETHER!

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  27. I must add that bad elements exist everywhere be it India or US. Girls gets molested and drugged too.

    BUT….there won’t be a leader or a govt. official who would support such an act. There would be immediate arrests. There isn’t any moral police from a political party who would set rules for universities. People won’t question a girl for working at night or drinking.That’s where the difference is.

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  28. I agree with Vinita. Send your daughter to study and for the opportunities. If you think, women elsewhere have the freedom to dress how they want, try dressing “non-traditionally” in the west and see how many stares and glares and comments you receive. Ask any Muslim woman who wears the hijab in public, especially in small towns. What is good though, is that law enforcement usually cracks down on mob violence. Which really is all one is asking for. People are free to approve or disapprove of other people’s dress and behavior. It’s their trying to become public guardians of morality that is unacceptable. And the cops should make sure that it remains unacceptable.

    Sharmishtha

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  29. @Solilo Agree with you completely.
    Also when I say Western Culture, I include the modern Indian culture which is influenced by Western Culture…. which this commenter thinks is ruining Indian values!!!

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  30. @Riya Thanks πŸ™‚ Half the problem (more than half) of the problem would be solved if we stop being so blind to the fact that sexual harassment has nothing to do with the way a woman dresses. It’s entirely a law and order problem. If it was only about the way a woman dresses then only the ‘boldly’ dressed would get assaulted, in my experience if you look strong – like you have connections; money; supportive family, friends, society; or if you look like you can give right back – nobody bothers you.
    My maid who only wears saris was going for work (she used to work at a construction site earlier)and a man started following her everyday. She could not even tell her husband, he would have accused her or ‘giving wrong signals’ to that old-enough-to-her-father lech!
    This is what emboldens these creeps. Karanataka government’s comments about pub-culture are not going to embolden more such assaults? We have chosen these illiterate fools to represent us ….

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  31. @Cacophoenix I know. You are right, but see from an Indian female’s point of view,
    It’s enough that sex offenders are not made to feel that their actions are the fault of ‘a girl who raises testosterone level in men to an extent whereby he looses control over himself’[quoting a comment on a post in Known Turf]
    It’s enough that the culture would not look the other way when they see baby girls being terminated- sometimes in our families.
    I can go on and on …
    I am not saying they are perfect cacophoenix, just that they don’t encourage sex offenders, the way we do, with talk of women asking for it.
    Just look at the simple fact that these Mangalore victims have not even lodged an FIR till now!!

    What do you say cacophoenix?

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  32. Now our esteemed Health Minister Mr.Ramdoss has jumped on to the ‘ban pubs as they are against Indian ethos’ bandwagon…He said because of pubs, women have started drinking…Excuse me…Women smoke and drink in villages and have done so for centuries – why aren’t people stopping them? Also, till pubs were mainly a male bastion, nobody said anything about them being against Indian ethos…

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  33. @Chikki I do agree actually. ‘PERSISTENCE IHM..PERSISTENCE..!!!Lets make India a better place, TOGETHER!’
    Yes, let’s πŸ™‚ Will blog about it, you do too!
    I have joined a new group blog, ‘Indian Woman’ … will be posting our first post soon. Will love to know what you think.

    @Destination Infinity I thought about it and came to the conclusion that you are right, this had not as much to do with our culture as our politics!!! But also these politicians do influence our culture … and we seem to sliding towards Talibanism.

    @Snipettsnscribbles My thoughts exactly! think its high time we started learning things from the West that we ought to learn. Like freedom of speech, law and order, independence, support, action, compassion, gratitude, courtesy, discipline and tolerance instead of blaming them for introducing the pub-and-mall culture to India. There is more to the West than meets the eye.

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  34. k one clarification who told its girls who are stared at? I like to wear sleeveless and even among peers I get teased etc,but i never stop wearing them,people keep giving me weird looks,but i feel much more confident in them,than wearing something “normal” …

    As for studying in the U.S…hmm…there are better places to go to πŸ˜‰

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  35. I don’t think it’s about better here (US) or better there (India). I find that respect for the person is definately more here than in India. I must confess that I did not feel so comfortable wearing skrits in India as I feel here. being stared at is uncomfortable however comfortable I may be with what I wear. Definately send you daughter to study here. But only if she gets into one of the Top few (which I’m sure she will) πŸ™‚
    ….and I have an award for you in my blog πŸ™‚

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  36. What is wrong..is a wrong irrespective of gender…in a big society like ours, there will be different characters..but the problem is how to handle these type of hypocrites..hmm..

    well when you talk of western culture, i feel why we havent taken their discipline ..totally lacking amongst us..specially time sense…an incident i will convey here..we went to watch turtle, laying eggs, which happnes in the nite…we were seperated into groups…one groups is specailly whites..got wild seeing that..u cant do much…you know what happenned in our group…we were not supposed to switch on our torchlights when the guide takes us….so when the guide showed the turtle in his torch, the next moment 10 people switched on their torchlights….guide became so angry that we had to return half way…now i know why whites went alone…hmm

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  37. @Mandira Yes this is scary, please talk about it to as many people as possible… I asked my maid what she thought and they both condemn this new form of sexual harassment…we are aware that even many educated people are supporting these molesters.

    @Charakan I agree. It has to be fight not flight. But believe me this isn’t a very heartening situation 😦

    @Sharmishtha “What is good though, is that law enforcement usually cracks down on mob violence. Which really is all one is asking for. People are free to approve or disapprove of other people’s dress and behavior. It’s their trying to become public guardians of morality that is unacceptable. And the cops should make sure that it remains unacceptable.”

    @Sahaja Just like Kasab feels what he did was right and in the name of God, these Sena people might also think the same coz thats what they were told since they were child!!
    Sahaja Koop Manduk is someone who thinks the whole world is his well. Such a person cannot imagine that some people may have values and life style different from his own. And Sahaja it does not mean you have to wear sleeveless or be non-traditional, in fact it means we accept people with their differences – if we are not Koop Manduks, we will understand that there is a world outside our well which maybe quite unlike ours πŸ™‚
    It is dangerous to allow such people to get away with such activities, it will embolden them.

    @Just call me A Thanks for the Award πŸ™‚
    And I agree with you … πŸ™‚

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  38. As usual, I’m late πŸ™‚

    Indeed the way things are moving, backward, I must add, it is only natural to think of sending one’s daughters away to a land where their feminity would not be the cynosure of all eyes, or the target of the moral goons. But sometimes, one wonders if at all it is all that it is made out to be!

    Certainly there is a level of acceptance and forbearance vastly superior to that of the general populace here. A niggling thought arises in my mind. Should not our daughters be taught to stand and face it? Should they not be empowered, with values and a core confidence and support of the families, commuunity [please do not read caste here :)] support systems to stand their ground here.

    There is a fault in that logic I know when moral policing and their strictures defy logic, and one does not know for what they will strike whom next.

    While, as one person has mentioned above [do excuse me for not checking to see who it is:)] indeed for the higher studies part yes, but the notion of sending her away for other reasons, well, while I do understand entirely why, it still makes me wonder if those reasons should also be considered πŸ™‚

    My two paise on it πŸ™‚

    One thing is for sure, she should be given the opportunity to go on, and then decide for herself, what she would like to do. Being your daughter, I have an inkling as to what she would do πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚

    A wonder of a post, as always!

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  39. Drugs, excessive drinking is bad and the former is illegal too.. PERIOD. It isnt WORSE for women to do it or OK for men to do it!

    It isnt about what gender you belong to.

    Nothing anyone does makes it OK for random hooligans to tear their clothes off or molest them.

    My problem is not what happened but why were women only targeted? I agree there is a degradation of Indian values but it isnt only women. It is the men too. Why dont men wear dhoti-kurtas and go to work? Are they following norms when with long hair and pierced tongues get high on LSD?

    I dont think the idea is to escape the Indian culture ( I hoping this post was with a tinge of sarcasm) Of all the rules, I grew up with, the explanation of none was ‘Because you are a girl’. I understand your concern and wanting to send your girl abroad but then I think you should rather teach her to stay here and fight!

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  40. I like your strong words! I too prefer western culture to Indian because it treats women better. And this is exactly what the moral police hates because their aim is to keep women chained.

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  41. IHM, yes the west is very permissive and freely allows individuals to follow their own passions and dreams. But you may not like the way they handle their economy and the world is in a financial turbulence because of that. I have posted about the Mangalore pub incident and a remarkable video about the global financial turbulence – Do see the video – you will learn a great deal about how the world depends on USA! You may even post about this subject – your take on this subject too…

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  42. Yes, IHM, I agree with you. Women do remain intimidated and petrified of standing up against these elements and sometimes the community aids in not bringing them to task. But wasn’t this the place where Nisha stood up against dowry harassment and where groups like SHG and many many more are active http://www.hinduonnet.com/2003/02/27/stories/2003022706750500.htm
    where women have grouped together to fight against illicit liqour or against male domination by setting up co ops. There is wide spread support for these groups. Yes they are few and far between, but they are there. They need our support and publicity.
    For all the “respect” that women receive here, they have the highest drop out rates in school, end up as single parents at the age of 20 or less sometimes with two or more kids, no support system, and very rarely any help from the govt. Yes, the Obama govt is expected to do miracles. But he was VOTED into power mainly by people like your daughter. Wouldn’t it be better, if your daughter learnt what real Indian culture is, rather than believe these half baked versions from ram sena and Ekta Kapoor and fought for those by voting, campaigning or setting up a system in her school or college where people can learn these things. That is something we can learn from here. I am not arguing or nitpicking. I am just saying making this a cultural argument is not necessary for the simple reason that countries like Britain and France still see US as backward. For them a country which gave women voting rights only in the late 1930’s after decades of violent marches and deaths and where slavery was legal till 1950’s and 1960’s and the place where unions are considered Evil and where people cannot march peacefully or come to a decision about gay rights is backward.

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  43. A post after my own heart!

    Brilliantly put as usual.

    India will only be truly democratic when it begins to grant women and men the same freedom..

    Hiding behind the “great indian culture” is but a defense of the insecure who cannot handle the fact that women are equal citizens…capable of doing as well as men.

    I urge you not to delete such commen ts unless they are derogatory or personal in nature…let them out in the open and we can all deal with them together!

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  44. The position of women in human society is undergoing a constant change. In the western Countries before 17th Century the status of women was very poor. There the position of women began to improve after the Industrial and French Revolutions, when the Feudal society slowly transformed in to an Industrial Society. Even then equal position for women was granted only in first 2 decades of last century. Now Europe and USA have virtually wiped out feudalism and women enjoy great deal of individual liberty.
    Now only India is slowly transforming from feudal to Industrial society. Only a few in the big cities have been able to change their patriarchal feudal mindset. Majority of India still lives in a feudal mindset similar to that in Europe 100 to 200 years ago. Hopefully in next 50 years as we Industrialize more and more the individual liberty for women may come close to that of Western Societies.
    This does not mean we wait for 50 years doing nothing. Fight for Women’s liberty accelerate the process very much.

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  45. The moral policing of India is unwarranted and the actions taken in its wake are despicable. This is a democracy and the government DARE not forget that!

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  46. To the many who have pointed out that US may not be as safe as people think, there are a few differences I would like to point out:

    1. Yes there are dangerous neighborhoods in USA, but when people do get attacked, they don’t blame the victim
    2. The government does not ban people from going to those neighborhoods because it is “against their culture”
    3. Crimes again women are taken really seriously.
    4. They are not trying to shut down Indian or Chinese restaurants because it is “Eastern Culture” that their citizens are getting influenced by.

    Culture is never something static that can be captured and preserved. It is the reflection of a society and its values. So every generation defines its culture, not the other way around. How I wish these goondas and politicians can understand this simple concept.

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  47. it is hard to believe that a woman is the current president of india and was a prime minister at some point ( no i do not like the fact that she is part of the dynastic rule and that is exactly the reason indira became the prime minister )

    rules for women differe with respect to classes and castes in india. and it also differs for one who tolerates being pushing down.

    “superior-ism” is the problem.

    i am sure you know that some women who feel that they are the upholders of tradition would actually feel gratified when another women is beaten up for breaking the rules ?

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  48. Many of my friends are in USA and they tell me that its a completely different world in terms of the freedom you have. Nobody bothers you for trivial things like the clothes you are wearing or what you are drinking.
    I somehow believe that people have their basics right in America. For e.g. they know that “Education” is more important than “telling girls what to drink”. There are some very basic things which are required for a nation to prosper, and one of them is to focus on the issues which is holding the development back. Sadly, in India, we are unable to underline the priorities.

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  49. @Gopinath. While I do not disagree with the gist of your comment, I just want to correct a few historical inaccuracies that you have unwittingly used. Slavery was abolished in the US in 1860 and was the cause of the Civil War. Segregation and Jim Crow laws were made illegal after Martin Luther King and the Civil Rights Movement. John F Kennedy signed unto law, the Civil Rights Amendment in 1962, making it illegal to discriminate on the basis of gender or race. So, desegregation happened in the 1960s. American women were granted the vote in 1919-1920, at about the same time that they were given the vote in Britain. Frenchwomen only got enfranchised in the 1930s (if I remember correctly), so actually, the US has always been a pioneer of Women’s Rights. You should read about Susan B Anthony and the Seneca Falls Convention. Second Wave feminism also started in the US though it later spread to Europe in the 1960s and 70s.
    But, yes, women’s rights have been under attack under the Bush Administration, with GW Bush making determined attempts to overturn Roe vs Wade, the US Supreme Court’s landmark ruling that legalized abortion in the late 1970s.
    Its always risky to get historical facts wrong, other people may believe that what you wrote was factually correct, so I just wanted to set the record straight.
    Peace,
    Preeti

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  50. awesome awesome discussion.

    i am with alankrita totally.

    also, do send ur daughter. if not for her mental growth by exposing her to the world, then for the sake of helping her discover herself and love herself.

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  51. I just chanced upon your blog due to some random calculations in google reader, and then chanced upon this post. I came to the US to study about a year ago. I am a young woman, born and brought up in a non-conservative part of India. I am studying advertising here, the media industry, the most exposed, so to say.

    But my perspective about the western culture differs largely from yours. Everything you mentioned, things to love about this culture, is true. You dont get lynched for religion (mostly), you dont get ogled at for the clothes you are wearing, and you have a fair and equal right everywhere.

    What this culture does not give you?
    -Is respect for elders and family members. They have taken equality so far, that there is no looking up to elders, learning form their experiences.

    -Too much of independence. To the point of isolation. There is no such thing as neighborly love, no bond outside work, no dependency at all. You are COMPLETELY on your own. So much so that the concept of sharing a bottle of water with your friends does not exist.

    – No genuineness. You greet everyone on the road, you smile and ask how are you doing, but if anyone says that they are not doing well, you dont care more than that.

    Just wondering, is the western culture worth all this? I definitely plan on returning. The best part about this country is its education. The way it matures you and the experiences it gives you.

    And the only reason I m preaching about all this is since you are planning on sending your daughter here..

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  52. @Pragni Welcome to my blog πŸ™‚
    I do understand what you mean, and I value what is good in India too, but Safety and life comes first, then respect … isn’t it better to be left alone than be molested where ever you go, than being controlled? These days girls from liberal families are also being molest ed in many cities, in the name of teaching them to respect Indian culture! And no government is taking serious action against the molesters.

    Do read some of the posts about Mangalore attacks on my blog.

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  53. To all those people on this blog who feel disgusted about the ‘Indian way’ of life
    and for those who think, western culture is a more meaningful way of living since
    it gives lot of freedom, equality, better choice in marriages etc etc.

    Here is my suggestion:

    Try watching some of Jerry Springer Shows…..
    (If you would like to watch some of Jerry Springer stuff, you can try youtube,
    you will know what it is, I dont want to post any links since I want to keep
    my comment as clean as possible, be advised the videos have some foul language)

    If we simply ape the western way of life I strongly believe that it would not
    be long before India starts hosting such television shows. We will also have
    more cases of Emotional imbalance, depression, divorces, teenagers losing
    focus of what they need to do, Drugs etc etc…..these are some of the problems
    that western world is trying to cope with because of so called ‘Open-mindedness’
    and if we start campaigning (which we are) against indian values and traditions,
    we will invite some of these probs as well.

    I am not saying, we do not have problems in Indian society. There are
    problems we already have. But, try to see some of those good values
    that our parents and society has given us.
    Me -Would you like to give some examples of these values Srinivas?

    And, where do these values come from? It comes from our culture and traditions. Denouncing Indian values and culture is definitely not a solution to our problems.
    Me -It would help if you could give some specific examples of which India values do you mean Srinivas.
    Rather, reinforcing the youth of India with education and moral values from our epics is a solution.
    Me – What and why do we need to learn from our epics, could you explain?
    How about common sense and human values? Compassion, justice, mutual respect, honesty, hard work (not for select few but for all Indians) are not good values?

    That is why, so many young Indians do well when we go to places like USA, Germany etc and infact there are so many people in europe and usa seek the indian way of life because of the peace and happiness it gives them.

    Me – The culture I am sure is great and is transforming other countries, but it is not helping Indian women to be born, they are often aborted as soon as it is found that they are females – you see traditionally we have to have a son to do our last rites. It’s our tradition.
    And if a girl is allowed to be born then getting health care and nutrition is only for the lucky ones – because we have a tradition of feeding the boys and men before women, and you can imagine where this has brought us in most parts of India. Traditionally daughters are brought up to be sent to take care of parents of their spouses. If a boy and a girl are ill, we find that the boy would get better medical care and survive. Our culture has made it difficult for Indian parents to value their daughters.

    In westernized, open minded Urban families, girl babies are also welcomed, these modern parents feel she will get education and break traditions by becoming self reliant (traditionally she must give her income to her Lord i.e. her husband) and she will break more traditions by marrying someone of her own choice maybe from another community, maybe even from another religion. This young couple might break traditions by living in a Nuclear family, and then having only female children and they will break still more traditions by letting these daughters do their last rites… which of these traditions do you think they should not break and why?

    Should they let their daughters become paraya dhan after they are married? But then who will take care for them in their old age? Traditionally they need to have a son for that? But how many children can they afford to have? So they are right or wrong in aborting female fetuses? What is your suggestion? Should we continue to permit comfort in old age only to those families who have sons? (Our tradition doesn’t allow a girl’s parents to eat or even drink water, in their daughter’s marital home).
    Women also have problem in escaping domestic violence, they are told they must have done something to deserve it, they are sent right back so they can be burnt alive. Why are they sent back? Because traditionally pati parmeshwar’s house is their house once they are married, their doli goes in their arthi comes out.

    Traditionally women also must guard their honor. They are told they deserved it or ‘asked for’ for sexual harassment – basically whatever happens we have a tradition of blaming the female – instead of blaming and punishing the culprit. Did we punish an innocent woman in our epics? Would you like that to be the lesson for today? Unlike the rest of the people, Indian women are expected to carry the culture on their shoulders, (amazingly this is not something they have a choice in, whether they want it or not, culture is forced on them. They can be beaten for drinking in the name of the same culture that offers liquor to shiv bhakt of all other genders, all in the name of culture (kawars).
    Culture is often used to control lives, so although traditionally women wore a sari without blouse, today they can be called westernised if they wear clothes that show their shoulders. Indian men seem to have no such problems, they can wear western clothes while beating ‘westernised’ women. Doesn’t this makes Indian women doubt the worthiness of some of our traditions?

    Traditionally getting married for a woman, requires bribing a life partner’s family with dowry. Traditional marriages seem to be in favour of men and their families (we even have jokes about ladke wale (the grooms family) and their nakhre (airs).
    Then they are made to stop living if their life partner dies, while their lives are of no value, they can be burnt alive to make place for a new wife with fresh dowry. In old age they are forced to depend on their sons.
    For all the glorification of motherhood, they are expected to bear only male children and it is common to hear men complain if women get maternity leave, the point is if this society wants a new generation of citizens, they should not make it difficult for a woman to have and bring up babies. Otherwise over a period of time women would be forced to choose to have no children.
    Indian women often miss the peaceful Indian way of life that you mention because they are too busy avoiding being groped by the men whose values have taught them that they are inocent victims of provocation by women if they (the men) molest them. We have a tradition of blaming the victims.

    For centuries women had no choice. They were given no education, kept in dependence, married young and sent to live and serve another family – while the rest of the citizens had opportunities to learn and grow. Surprisingly despite all this women are doing amazingly well in every field, and now where ever they have a choice they are able to question the traditions that were made for some other era and should evolve to suit to today’s times. I feel we are finally learning to respect women. How? We are actually realising that they can decide what is good for them.
    We are realising that we do not always know better than the women. Do you disagree?

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  54. i hate indian women like you. Why do you ‘like’ western culture? What about your own culture (stupid *****). I’m an indian born and brought up here in canada, but i still like my culture. Western culture cannot even compare to indian culture

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  55. Look, I know that culture always changes. But the fact that you hear about indian women wearing incredibly short skirts/shorts and drinking in the pub is just too much..I mean this is something new for india. It’s ok to have little bit of moral policing. Keeps our culture stable

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    • No point trying to keep the culture of female infanticide; bride burning; Might is Right; Domestic Violence; controlling the lives of the youth; Patriarchy; excusing and supporting sexual crimes against women; preventing citizens from choosing their own partners without dowry, caste and horoscope matching; etc stable.

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  56. I can’t believe why an indian person would be against his/her own culture. That’s bizarre. Indian culture isn’t just wearing about sari and not drinking. It’s more than that. It encompasses our diverse religion, literature, history, films, language, and who we are as a people

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  57. I’ve just moved back to India after a decade away in the US. I don’t think I can even begin explaining the freedom I felt there as a woman. I was raised by a dad who was so worried about my safety that I was barely allowed to go anywhere by myself and constantly had to check in with them. I wasn’t allowed to have male friends until I was much much older. I love my parents for protecting me the way they did, but I spent 10 years of my life in the US scrubbing away the fear, the guilt, the nightmares of walking on the streets of India, no matter which city. I’ve experienced how it is to feel liberated of these fears that a girl lives with every living moment of her life here. And I’m back now. Still soul searching and thinking about why exactly I moved back. I know my 3 year old had a lot to do with it. I wanted her back here, back to the love and family that I was raised in. And yet … I am always thinking about her turning 18 and being sent away back to the US (if things don’t get worse there over the years that is!). If anything this past year has been a horrible record for women’s safety here in India. There have been several incidents in the US as well. But it’s far from being comparable. I’ve spent every living moment these past 2 months hoping and praying I didn’t mess it up for my daughter. While I don’t love the west for everything .. there are lessons for parents to be learnt on raising decent men.

    Apologies for bringing up a post from so far in the past .. I’m just catching up with your blog. Digging through the endless treasure in here.

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  58. I Support and very agree to all your thoughts and opinions that is against Indian culture because I literally hate all the cultural norms and traditions of Indian except the damn westernized Goanese culture bcos our people country are made up a huge and excessively bullshit restrictive crap especially for women interms marriage , sex, clothing consumption of anykind of intoxicants as it better more worser of the increasing population and because most of The Very Great Indians prefer to say in joint family it is an extra ordinary strangling as well as suffocating rubbish. But I am a man who can at least understand the heart of a women

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  59. Pingback: “I am trying to make a list of soooooooo many advantages a girl can have if she is born in a Western family as compared to being born in india.” | The Life and Times of an Indian Homemaker

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